Printed from Afterschool Curriculum Choice - Literacy

Curriculum Details for
Wilson Fundations

Practitioner Expert
Content Expert
Wilson Fundations
Publication Date: 2002
Grade Level: K–3
Content Focus: Literacy/Language Arts: Reading, Spelling
Costs: $300 - $450 per level for teachers kits, $30-$50 extra for each student kit.
The costs shown were accurate at the time of the review. Please check the publisher's web site for current prices.
Developer Contact Information
Wilson Language Training
47 Old Webster Road
Oxford, MA, 01540
(508) 368-2399

User Comments (add a comment)
There is 1 user comment on file.

Program Description

Design Summary

Wilson Fundations is a school-based prevention and early intervention program that can easily be adapted for afterschool.  It is a supplemental program in basic reading and spelling instruction, based on NICHD research and the National Reading Panel. It addresses basic skills including print knowledge, alphabet awareness, phonological and phonemic awareness skills, as well as decoding, encoding, and vocabulary. Students can enter the program at various grade and ability levels.  For example: a student who is in first grade can start at Level 1 without having done the kindergarten level, and a student in second grade or beyond could start at Level 2, the highest starting point. Supplemental activities included are designed for students who might need additional support.

The program is multisensory and focuses on hands-on learning with active participation by students, including the use of puppets. Instructional materials include a CD-ROM for teacher training, a manual describing activities, and a specific daily curriculum.  Materials such as manipulatives, student notebooks, word, sound, and syllable cards, and even owl puppets are all used to help teach the curriculum.  A Home Support Pack, available in both English and Spanish, is also a key component of the curriculum.

Costs and Staff Training

For each level, the teacher’s kit costs between $300 and $450, and the student kits are between $30 and $50 per students.  The kits include all necessary materials except for notebooks and composition books, which need to be replaced each year. Some volume discounts are available. Current costs for program materials can be obtained at

Training is offered although not required. It consists of a 1-day workshop at a cost of $225 per person.

Staff Qualifications

Teaching experience is not required to implement Fundations, although the instructor should have some experience with the K-3 age group. Familiarity with explicit, multisensory language instruction and the materials are important factors for teachers’ and non-teachers’ success.  The content expert review suggests that instructors should know their content area, be organized, and know their students well in order to use the curriculum in a meaningful and relevant way.  The practitioner expert review suggests that the trainings offered are sufficient to allow most anyone to implement the program.

Standards Alignment

  • National: None specified, although the National Reading Panel did serve as a foundation for the curriculum.
  • State: Contact the publisher for state alignment.

Research Base

The Wilson Reading System®, Orton-Gillingham philosophy of literacy instruction, and phonological coding research form the basis for Wilson Fundations®.

Evaluation Details

The Florida Center for Reading Research has conducted an independent evaluation of this curriculum to look at overall academic improvement in the areas taught and the inclusion of research-based principles.

Overall Strengths/Overall Challenges

  • Comprehensive curriculum; leaves no vocabulary, spelling or reading skill unturned or unexplored.
  • Materials are varied and are simultaneously accessible for many learners and a variety of learning styles.
  • Students are actively involved and engaged with the learning process. 
  • Solid research base.
  • Especially effective with students who struggle with decoding.
  • Parents and families also play an integral role.
  • Volume of material – manuals, books, journals, cards, DVDs, etc. – may require the teacher to take a good deal of time becoming familiar with and mastering the curriculum.
  • Can be difficult to help new students who enter during the middle of the year to catch up.

Practitioner Expert Review

Practitioner Expert Background

Two practitioners were interviewed for this review of Wilson Reading Fundations.  One practitioner is the Director of Curriculum and Instruction in a mid-sized school district. She has been using Fundations in all K-3 classrooms, in conjunction with another literacy program, for the past six years, and found it to be successful in helping students learn how to read.

The second practitioner has been using Fundations on a daily basis with K-3 students since its publication fifteen years ago. The students she works with are multicultural and have a range of reading abilities.


  • These practitioners took part in the one-day initial training and professional development, and felt it to be sufficient to start using the program. 
  • There are online teaching aids that can help answer teachers’ questions.  A DVD is also included which models lessons for beginning instructors.
  • Follow-up professional development is available.
  • Preparation takes around 20-30 minutes to prepare for a whole-group one-day lesson.
  • As instructors become more familiar with the curriculum, the basics of preparation and set up become easier, and might only take 5-10 minutes.
  • All necessary materials are included with the curriculum.
  • Practitioners have used Fundations effectively in whole-class settings and with smaller groups of 5-8 students. 
  • Fundations can also be used as an intervention curriculum. 
  • High quality, individualized customer service.

Student Engagement

  • Curriculum requires students to be involved orally, manipulatively, and physically. Requires student response at all times.
  • Parts of Fundations are student-led, and students are always enthusiastic to participate and be involved.  For example, students often are the leaders of an activity called “Quick Drill.”
  • Students are rarely just sitting and listening. They are often up out of their seats, moving around, and actively involved with the curriculum.
  • Teachers can make up games to add to the program.


Adaptability to instructor needs
  • Program is structured, but not entirely scripted.  A specific scope and sequence is offered.  Teacher needs to know students well enough to know which letters, stories, concepts, etc., to choose to teach students.
  • Important for teachers to stick to the scope and sequence.
  • Can target the curriculum to meet the learning needs and levels of the students.
  • Offers a progress monitoring piece that allows instructor to input data and have a sense of where students should be. Unit assessments are also available.
General skills taught
  • Social skills, such as responding appropriately to directions, etc.
  • Students develop an understanding how to expedite learning.
  • Student-led activities develop leadership, self-confidence, and give students practice speaking in front of groups.
Addressing diverse student needs
  • Content is age-appropriate, and leveled curriculum is catered toward ensuring that students learn how to read.
  • Students who are struggling can continue at a slower pace, and more advanced students can move on to more challenging topics.
  • Has been effective with students who are English language learners.

Strengths and Challenges

  • Solid research base will lead students to be successful when Fundations is implemented with fidelity and integrity.
  • Uses direct instruction to address not only phonics, but syllables, decoding, and learning how to read. Especially effective with students who struggle with decoding.
  • Students are actively involved and engaged with the learning process. 
  • Can be difficult to help new students who enter during the middle of the year to catch up.

Content Expert Review

Content Expert Reviewer

Shari Dickstein
Shari Dickstein, doctoral candidate in Educational Policy at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, is also an independent instructional consultant. A former New York City high school teacher and adjunct professor at New York University, she now works with urban school districts (New York, Boston and Prince George's County) in a variety of ways to improve teaching quality and instruction at the systemic level. She has co-created instructional manuals on literacy and "writing across the curriculum" for students at Baruch College (an affiliate of the City University of New York) and on best practices for developing teachers for urban youth (for Boston's Teacher Residency program). Currently, she is working with Harvard's Teacher Education program to develop curriculum and on an evaluation of alternative teacher education programs in Prince George's County (Maryland).


  • Overarching goal of Fundations is to bridge language and literacy in colorful and compelling ways for elementary-aged students.
  • Materials increase in intensity as higher levels are reached.
  • Students are taught to read and write through engaging materials, with a critically important focus on vocabulary.
  • This curricular focus on vocabulary acquisition and decoding is a key aspect of helping students become stronger readers.


Academic Skills
  • Reading and writing skills
  • Vocabulary acquisition and decoding
Study Skills
  • Independent learning and studying
Non-Academic Skills
  • Builds self-confidence
  • Hand-eye coordination

Alignment to Standards

Not explicitly aligned with any standards, but without the academic skills of spelling and reading that form the basis for this curriculum, students would be hard-pressed to master any learning standard.


  • Dictation exercises, word-aloud, and read-aloud exercises provide teachers with an avenue to assess for learning and check for learning.
  • Summative unit tests are also provided.


  • Curriculum is highly structured, such that teachers are provided with all of the materials necessary to deliver the content effectively.
  • There is little flexibility in regard to content.  Teachers can elect whether or not to teach the specific content as suggested; however, given that the skills emphasized are meant to build upon one another, a huge diversion may interrupt the natural learning process for students.
  • Many of the activities in the workbooks are directly linked to the stories provided by Fundations.
  • While most of the instruction is teacher-directed, the emphasis on skill-building for students lends itself to a variety of student-centered, hands-on learning tasks.

Addressing Diverse Student Needs

  • Teachers can tailor instruction in ways that will be most meaningful for students.
  • Variety of activities allows adaptation for students of different learning styles.
Developmental level
  • Content and activities are well tailored to the developmental needs of young students.
Learning Styles Addressed
  • The curriculum is visual and can reach and adapt to a variety of learning styles.
  • Interpersonal learning: Emphasis on read-aloud and using “word cards” and “syllable cards” with each other.  Curriculum is interactive and allows students and teachers to interact with each other in creative ways.
  • Artistic learning: The props, books, worksheets, and stories all lend themselves to opportunities for the teacher to incorporate artistic activities to enhance learning.

Strengths and Challenges

Strongest Features
  • Comprehensive curriculum; leaves no vocabulary, spelling, or reading skill unturned or unexplored.
  • Materials are varied, and are simultaneously accessible for many learners and a variety of learning styles.
  • Age appropriate – topics are relevant for young children, with colorful story books and engaging props. 
  • Parents and families also play an integral role in the Fundations curriculum. There is a “Home Support Pack” to help guide teachers through this process.
Challenges and Drawbacks
  • Volume of material – manuals, books, journals, cards, DVDs, etc. – may require the teacher to take a good deal of time becoming familiar with and mastering the curriculum.
  • Materials are well-suited for reading specialists or classrooms with more than one teacher.

SEDL Home   Curriculum Choice was developed by PEAR, the Program in Education, Afterschool and Resiliency at Harvard University in partnership with the SEDL National Center for Quality Afterschool.
©2018 SEDL